The Combs-la-Ville Cultural Centre stands in the heterogeneous landscape of a new town in the greater Paris region, near a swimming pool and a shopping centre.
The programme called for two auditoria, a dance room, a library, a music school, meeting places and restaurant facilities. Faced with an environment without distinct characteristics, the architect worked by displacing the sense of things: the cultural centre thus inverts the typology of the neighbouring shopping centre and presents itself as an extrovert place, marked by a saturation of visual information based on transparency, depth and signalling.
The rounded volumes of the auditoria parody the “Tournesol” swimming pool: they are black and opaque and loom behind a huge glazed structure that forms an internal street. The façades with their aluminium fittings and “pizza parlour” colours express a triviality that has been sidetracked and ennobled: the huge multicolour neon sign evokes the popular concert hall, cinema or theatre.
Each element in the programme can be read in transparency both from the outside and from the interior street. The floors are given rhythm by painted coloured strips which overshoot the limits of the building, thus introducing graphic continuity between inside and outside.
Blue neon light falls over the show-street where artists Clothilde and Bernard Barto have screen-printed human silhouettes over the glazing, an effect that reinforces the interplay between the real and the virtual developed throughout the building.
Olivier Boissière in Jean Nouvel: Jean Nouvel, Emmanuel Cattani and Associates, Éditions Artemis Verlag, Zurich, 1992